Norwegian four-piece Leprous first made a name for themselves when they worked as Ihsahn’s backing band, but after honing themselves over four albums, their frenetic yet stylised work has earned them much-deserved recognition.
Rendezvous Point, fellow Norwegians who share Leprous’ octo-limbed whirlwind drummer Baard Kolstad, open the show tonight, serving up a mesmerisingly melodic but somewhat harried set. Delays, which meant they got stuck in traffic coming over from the continent, force the young band to begin late, and it shows in a couple of false starts. Sphere, who follow them up, are technical and Acacia Strain-like in their ferocity, but unlike their predecessors, find it hard to endear themselves to an audience clearly after something more complex.
Then there’s the sharply coiffed and impeccably pathological Leprous, who straddle the stage like a group of steampunk baristas. A lot of prog musicians wage the war of style over substance, but there’s none of that conflict here, as the clever opening electronic warp and weft of The Flood turns into its fist-pumping, immaculately conceived chorus. Keyboardist and vocalist Einar Solberg, who plays a fairly minimal role when touring with Emperor, is a colossus, marrying intense theatricality with pitch-defying vocals and an intense eye-drawing stage persona. How he could ever return to a supporting role is beyond all reasoning.
The set, which leans heavily towards the band’s newer material, is richly hedonistic, and despite the menacing lyrical hook of Foe and the dark, splintering Acquired Taste, the evening is cut through with a celebratory energy.
Static-heavy TV monitors frame the stage, looping disturbing scenes to the repetitious strains of Rewind, but the visuals ultimately only serve as window dressing for these four enigmatic musicians. As they close the night with a towering rendition of The Valley, it’s clear to everyone here that Leprous stepped out of the shadow of their former employer a long time ago.